What will America look like at mid-century? US 2050, an initiative of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation and the Ford Foundation, will examine and analyze the multiple demographic, socioeconomic, and fiscal trends that will shape the nation in the decades ahead. Engaging leading scholars in the areas of demographics, poverty studies, labor economics, macroeconomics, political science, and sociology, US 2050 will create a comprehensive view of our economic and fiscal future – and the implications for the social and financial well-being of Americans.
In the coming decades, a transformational wave of foreseeable demographic changes will create a new American tapestry. Social, economic, and technological changes will reshape the domestic and global economy, and the nation’s fiscal condition will face increasing challenges resulting from a range of factors, including an aging society and a structural mismatch between spending and revenues. These interconnected trends will have significant, but not yet fully understood, implications for the social and financial well-being of Americans. US 2050 will explore these issues and their link to the country’s fiscal and economic health.
The project’s goal is to foster a clearer vision of America’s future and spur a sense of urgency to address pressing policy concerns, thereby laying the groundwork for better outcomes. In 2050, today’s newborn will be entering her prime working years, and one out of every four of today’s 65-year olds will still be living. All of us have a stake in the trends that will unfold in coming decades.
The project will engage leading scholars and provide grants to support research. The insights and learnings gained from the new work will be shared at gatherings that will bring together authors of papers, academic and substantive experts, and, ultimately, policy leaders.
A distinguished Advisory Committee is guiding the project, bringing valuable expertise across the key research disciplines. The Committee is coordinated by the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution, and will assist with the framing of research questions, selection of successful proposals and the review of submitted papers.
Scholars from multiple disciplines responded the project’s two call for papers. (The deadline for submitting proposals has now passed. Authors of successful proposals will be notified May 1.) In its broadest form, our main question is this:
How do the changing demographics of America – including aging, race, ethnicity, and other factors – affect the future fiscal and economic health of the nation, and what are the best policies to prepare for and respond to the challenges and opportunities that this future presents?
Papers will go beneath the national median and aggregate trends to examine differences and similarities of sub-groups in the population and examine how our changing demographics intersect with our changing economy.
The following list includes many broad questions in which we are interested. This list is not meant to be comprehensive, and is intended to illustrate the breadth of our interest.
Political scientists are especially encouraged to submit proposals for US 2050. A key question for the project is the state of American political institutions and how they may change. The most important trends of the last few decades — increasing competition for majority control of Congress, the ideological polarization of the parties, the weakening of congressional capacity, for example — challenge our leaders to address any pressing policy concerns.
Wealth or lack of it affects families’ ability to provide resources and educational opportunities for their children. This has implications for children’s trajectory as adults, as well as for parents’ retirement security. To deepen our understanding of factors that affect wealth building in different communities, we are interested in several questions: What barriers prevent individuals and families from saving for retirement, acquiring assets, and investing in their children? How do these factors affect various population groups differently and affect the composition of their retirement saving? Potential topics of interest include but are not limited to:
The labor market and the structure of the American family both have changed significantly over the past 30 years with implications for social welfare and social insurance programs. (For example, an increasing share of SNAP recipients work, and the earned income tax credit has replaced TANF as the largest cash transfer program for low-income Americans.) Growing pressures within the federal budget could increase pressure on social safety net and social insurance programs. At the same time, an increasing share of program participants could: (1) qualify for benefits with work; (2) work longer over the lifecycle; (3) face uncertainty and volatility in work arrangements; and (4) support increasingly complex family arrangements — single parents, multiple partner fertility, etc. With that in mind, we are interested in papers on the following and related topics.
Many of the demographic, socioeconomic and fiscal trends that will transform the US in the decades ahead are global. Aging is a global phenomenon. Educational attainment has surged around the world. Hundreds of millions of people are joining the global middle class – and will have education and skills that increasingly put them in competition US workers. Thus, exploration of key dimensions of the evolving global context is essential for understanding the future wellbeing of Americans.
In particular, we invite proposals that look at global factors likely to affect the supply of immigrants to the US and to influence the types of jobs and the distribution of wages in the US.
Questions of interest include, but are not limited to:
Will the composition of potential immigrants to the United States with respect to country of origin, skill level, employing industry, and the like change significantly, and how will the US labor market and economic growth rate be affected? Will competing trends put upward or downward pressure on US wages?
What is behind recent trends for men and women among various segments of the population and what factors may shape labor force participation in the future? What role does the high rate of incarceration of African America and Latino young men play? How do attitudes toward the changing composition of jobs (e.g., more health-related jobs, fewer manufacturing jobs; more contingent jobs, fewer permanent jobs) differentially affect men and women, and how do attitudes vary by race and ethnicity?
Are women and minorities over-represented in non-traditional jobs (e.g., temp, contingent work, gig economy)? If so, why, what are the implications for the future and what might be the policy response?
What does the increasing use of automation and other advanced technologies imply for the future number and types of jobs, as well as the education level and skill sets needed of workers to fill those jobs? What do these types of changes across sectors and occupations imply for workers’ incomes, the distribution of national income, and the fiscal outlook?
How do gig economy jobs interact with the social safety net and what are resulting implications for future fiscal policy?
How does productivity vary by age? Does this vary by sub-group? By generation? How could these differences affect the future economy?
What policies might be most helpful in boosting labor force participation? How should policies account for differences in ability to continue working across different jobs and industries? What would be the impact of higher labor force participation on economic growth?
How and why do actual and optimal patterns of retirement saving and retirement vary among segments of the population? How do these patterns affect the long-term fiscal outlook? How do public policies affect retirement decisions and do they affect different groups differently?
To what extent do different racial, ethnic, or gender groups with the same level of education have similar or difference returns to that education? How do industry of employment or career paths affect these?
How sensitive are productivity assumptions to the quality of education? Would metrics other than educational attainment provide better insight into labor quality?
What do we know about how the quality of education differs across groups? Are disparities adequately measured? What about returns to job training? If the employer demand for “social skills” is rising, what are the implications of that? Do these differences persist when controlling for, say, choices of major?
How much of the differences between educational benefits are driven by the particular skills acquired when receiving a degree?
What is the impact of the opioid epidemic and other substance abuse on current and future health, productivity, and public healthcare spending?
What do we know about the impact of stress on the health and productivity of adults and their offspring?
How does poverty affect childhood development and subsequent labor quality? What rates of return might be earned on investments in environmental improvements (reducing lead, other pollutants) or on expanding access to healthcare? What is the relative return of investing public resources in the young vs. the old, especially compared to current practice?
What role do race, ethnicity, family composition, culture, and other factors play in the propensity of Americans to move from one place to another to improve their economic prospects? Does geographic sorting and reluctance to move become a self-perpetuating driver of inequality, and how much do other disparities flow from that?
In what ways does the place in which a child grows up matter to outcomes, and does it matter differently to children of different races and ethnicities?
States vary widely in their public sector philosophies, which is reflected in their approach to and spending on education: how does that affect children of different racial/ethnic groups? Demographic change is happening in different regions at different speeds, and the industrial structure of regions vary: Does that matter?
To what extend do public policies encourage or discourage geographical mobility?
Does marriage matter? Does marriage matter to labor force participation rates of young men? Are patterns of child and elder caregiving different among different ethnic and racial groups and, if so, so what? How much do changes in household composition and marriage patterns (as opposed to other characteristics) drive observed inequality?
What are the determinants of fertility, how do fertility rates different among segments of the population, and what are the implications? The role of religion and religious institutions?
What is happening to savings and wealth by race and ethnicity over time?
How do gaps in wealth affect labor force attachment, wages, mobility?
How are different age groups preparing for retirement and how does retirement readiness vary by race, ethnicity, and marital status? What roles do social supports (e.g., Social Security) play in retirement readiness for different groups?
Does saving behavior differ across groups, and if so, as the population changes, what are the implications for retirement adequacy and/or national saving? Are there incentives or policy changes that would alter observed differences?
How does the growing burden of student debt affect saving during the working lives, both among those who finish college and those who do not? How does student debt burden affect retirement adequacy?
Does an aging society require higher taxes, public transfers or debt? Could such redistributions of resources within and across generations be accomplished in ways that are “fair” to future generations, especially given the changes in demographics??
Is there the potential for more or less fiscal space when demographic changes are taken into account?
What is likely to happen to differences in life expectancy across groups over time, and what are the implications of health status and life expectancy disparities for Medicare and Social Security reform? What do differences in life expectancy suggest for changes to eligibility ages for retirement and health programs?
What are the political implications of a country in which older whites are a minority? What is likely to happen to support for entitlements, for taxes? What are the implications of the changing demographics for political polarization?
|May 1, 2018||Authors of selected proposals under the second call for papers notified|
|June 28-29, 2018||Invitation-only research conference for authors, leading experts and Advisory Committee members to discuss draft papers|
|Fall 2018||Invitation-only research conference for authors, leading experts and Advisory Committee members to discuss draft papers|
|October 2018||Final papers to be submitted|
|Early 2019||Public conference and discussion of papers|